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How can I be sure to get into the college of my dreams?

QUESTION: I'm a high school sophomore, and I've been looking at a lot of different colleges. I took the SAT in 7th grade, but I am preparing for the PSAT this October. I am currently in at least 14 extracurricular activities and clubs, most of which I hold offices in. I am working to receive the bronze, silver, and gold Congressional Medals. I have a 4.0 grade average on a 4.0 scale, am ranked 1 in a class of over 300, and am planning on taking every offered AP class. However, how can I be sure to do everything possible to get into the college of my dreams (Harvard)? I don't exactly have the money to go there because my dad started a new business last fall so I need an outstanding application, along with test scores. I have used software programs and flashcards. What can I do to best prepare for these standardized tests? Who can I talk with to get my foot in the door and best increase my chances of getting into my dream school? Signed, Trying to Succeed

Dear Trying to Succeed: You are already on the right track in order to get into your dream college. Focus on the activities that you most enjoy and try to earn higher office positions.

As for SAT Preparation, the simplest way to prepare is to purchase an SAT preparation book from your local bookstore and practice the drills and lessons. A great one is 10 Real SATs from the College Board, which offers 10 real exams for practicing. If that doesn't work, you can always take an SAT preparation class, which you can find out about at your counselor's office or in local ads. If neither suits you, you can always resort to your flashcards, which are an effective way to improve your critical reading score. Many questions missed on the critical reading sections of the SAT are due to insufficient vocabulary.

Also, take some time to prepare for interviews; the earlier the better. Since you are looking at higher profile colleges (such as Harvard), you can bet that a dazzling interview can do nothing but help your chances. Because there will be many students with resumes as good as your own, admissions officers can set you apart from the rest through the interview. Practice when you have conversations with relatives or your parents' friends, and by the time that Harvard interview comes around, you'll be ready.

As for the money issue, you have numerous resources to which you can look. When you apply to colleges, also apply for financial aid. Based on your need, you may receive grants, loans or work-study.

There are also scholarships that you can earn based on your own merit. Check with your counselor for local scholarships being awarded and also use our search engine to find more wide-scale offerings.

You have already risen to the top at your school. Now you must convince colleges that you are the one they want above everyone else.

For more tips on getting into your first-choice college, including over 50 ways strategies that we used to increase our SAT score by over 100 points, refer to our book, Get Into Any College: Secrets of Harvard Students, which is available at

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.